Column from Senator Robert Nichols

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 29, 2007, 2007
Contact: Alicia Phillips
(512) 463-0103

Nichols praises agreement to fund the Texas State Railroad

Austin -- Today, state Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) praised an agreement to release designated funding for the Texas State Railroad.

"This agreement is a testament to the hard work of the Texas State Railroad Operating Authority as well as the cities of Rusk and Palestine," said Nichols. "Because they simply would not give up, the train will receive desperately needed funding for its future."

Nichols also recognized American Heritage Railways, the private operator partnering with the Texas State Railroad Authority to maintain train operations.

"American Heritage stuck with it even when they had the option to walk away," said Nichols. "Their willingness to work through this process shows their dedication to preserving this important piece of Texas history."

Last session legislators approved $2 million in funding for the Texas State Railroad Operating Authority, which could be matched with $10 million in federal grants.

Receiving the state money, however, depended on approval from the Legislative Budget Board, and key board members raised concerns about the nature of the funding and how it could be spent. After specifically addressing these issues, the operating authority will now receive the promised funds contingent on a small change to their contract with American Heritage.

The change gives the operating authority first right of refusal should American Heritage decide to sell its share in the railroad. The contract change is expected to be adopted without objection.

The Texas State Railroad is a historic train running between Rusk and Palestine through the Piney Woods. A former state park, its ownership was transferred in October to the Texas State Railroad Operating authority, a partnership of the cities of Rusk and Palestine.

Nichols authored Senate Bill 1659 creating the Texas State Railroad Operating Authority and authorizing the transfer of the train from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The state agency had previously announced it would be unable to maintain operations of the railroad due to high costs.

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